Monday, 22 July 2013

That minimum pricing evidence...or should I say lack of evidence?

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The 'scientific' argument (as opposed to the New Puritan or prohibitionist arguments) for minimum pricing of alcohol was based on data from Sheffield University. Data they've now revised with the result that rather than the policy 'saving' 2000 lives per year after ten years, it would only save 624. And the impact on consumption would be just -1.6%, a figure that would be lost in any general trends around drinking.

The policy is a nonsense and the estimates of impact and harm reduction from the SARG team at Sheffield have reduced with each iteration to the point where the impact of minimum pricing is little more than statistical noise - at least at the levels proposed for England and Scotland. However, I do admire the brilliance of SARG's spin on their reduced estimates - rather than say the policy isn't really that great they compare instead to the ban on below cost selling (something that simply doesn't take place) so will have zero impact:

Using a further developed and updated version of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model, the researchers predict that the impact on overall alcohol consumption is small – a reduction of just 0.04 per cent (which equates to 0.3 units or less than half a pint of beer per drinker, per year). The impact on the five per cent of the population who drink at harmful levels was an estimated 0.08 per cent reduction (which equates to three units per year from a harmful drinker's average consumption level of over 3,700 units per year).

We know banning below cost sales was a gimmick (because there really aren't any) but now we also know that minimum pricing - unless it's at punitive levels - really has little or no impact on health. We know this - despite the lives saved figure - because levels of consumption have fallen over recent years while 'alcohol-related' hospital admissions have continued to rise. Unless of course the public health folk would like to revisit those figures as well?

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1 comment:

Steve Wintersgill said...

This after they previously revised down the estimates on their website from 3000 per annum following a long running argument I had with Panorama after their Joan Bakewell hosted programme proclaiming it would save 5000 pensioner lives per annum - credit to deputy editor Ingrid Kelly, who actually engaged in a discussion and had the program pulled from iPlayer until they had re-recorded it with a lower number (1100 p.a. iirc).

Might have to drop her another line with the new, lower figures :-)